Amanda Rheaume: Matinee Show in Philadelphia

Amanda Rheaume

Toronto-based singer-songwriter Amanda Rheaume made her debut appearance at the Philadelphia Folksong Society recently, performing to an intimate audience on a beautiful Sunday afternoon that saw us bidding farewell to Summer, and hello to Fall.  Originally scheduled for a July show at this venue, with this revised date came the opportunity for Amanda to help launch the Society’s 2019 “Fall Into Folk” series.  And given the emphasis on inviting and supporting Canadian artists as a central theme, what could be better than having one of Ontario’s finest on the bill to commence the season?

With the release of her fifth studio album, “The Skin I’m In,” earlier this year, and a successful European tour, Amanda brought her unique brand of Roots-Americana music to the city of Brotherly Love.  Joined on stage by long-time friend and collaborator, Anders Drerup (electric guitar/vocals), the duo were eager to perform several tracks from the latest album, adding personal tales and older material, and throwing in a surprise cover too.  Those familiar with Amanda Rheaume know that while she can easily let her music do all the talking, she is equally comfortable discussing in detail her Metis heritage, her advocacy for LGBQT equality, and the personal challenges she faces constantly about ‘the skin she’s in.’

“I think it’s very special that you’re bringing so many Canadians down here,” Amanda stated, addressing the room.  “That is so cool, it’s a special opportunity to get to play this venue, and this is a real treat.”  Opting to commence the show with “Get To The Part,” the first of several tracks taken from her 2016 “Holding Patterns” album, Amanda was keen to explain the origins of the song.  “This is a song that really talks about how I think we’re in the age of comparison,” she shared.  “Just looking into other people’s lives and wondering, ‘Am I doing the right thing. Am I okay?’  This is really about getting to the part where you’re okay with yourself.”

Sticking with the “Holding Patterns” material, Amanda followed immediately with “Mind Over Matter,” and added “Dead Horse” and “Disappearing” as other notable tracks from that album over the course of the show.  She would also take time to discuss her Metis background, sharing tales of her indigenous familial roots in both northern Ontario and eastern Manitoba, leading into a great performance of “Keep a Fire in the Rain.”  As one of three songs taken from her 2013 “Keep A Fire” album, this also presented the opportunity to Amanda to incorporate the traditional language of her ancestors into her lyrics: “A mother and a teacher / Midwife for the tribe / She welcomed to life each miner’s child / For her there were no sides / She kept a fire in the rain / Bee jee gu-keenuh eneh weh.

Both Amanda and Anders dazzled with their charisma, natural chemistry, and combined musicianship, but really cranked things up when returning to the “Holding Patterns” album to perform “Red Dress.”  Announcing that a portion of the proceeds from this song were donated to benefit Indigenous causes in Canada, Amanda was only too happy to return to the topic of her ancestry.  “I want to mention what Metis means,” she began. “White people used to call Metis people half-breeds, or half-bloods, and they were sort of a mix of the European settler and the indigenous person.  So the Metis people didn’t fit in anywhere. They didn’t fit in with white people, or with indigenous people either.”

On her brand new album, “The Skin I’m In,” Amanda has openly explored not only this theme much deeper than before, but also addresses other personal challenges such as sexuality, relationships (“don’t have them,” she joked), and simply seeking to find comfort with her place in the world.  Several tracks reflecting upon these topics were naturally included, from “Picture Of You” and “Tell Me Anything,” to “Return to the Water” and “This One’s for You,” the latter dedicated to musicians that have passed on.  “This song’s inspired by Gord Downie and Tom Petty, and how their contribution to music has become the soundtrack to a lot of people’s lives, and I try to imagine what it would be like without all of this music.”

With the recent success of the title track (which received regular airplay here in the US on select SiriusXM stations), Amanda took pride in sharing its origins with her audience.  “This is one of the last songs I wrote for the album, [written] with Jason Blaine down in Nashville,” she offered.  “I actually thought the record was done, and my manager was like, ‘nope, go back and get another one.’”  With a captivated audience, she would continue her recollection.  “So I did, and it ended up being one of my favorite songs that really talks about so many things.  But I realized that I was happy, which felt weird, and it’s taken this long to feel like mostly okay in myself.  It’s really recent that I feel that I [finally] belong here.”

Adding an unscripted, on-the-fly deviation from their set list, Amanda informed us that Anders was also a songwriter, and encouraged him to take a solo moment to share one of his own compositions, titled “Two First Kisses.”  Setting his trusty Gibson Les Paul aside, he ‘borrowed’ Amanda’s acoustic guitar and shared a tale of his own with the room.  “I started dating again when I [moved] to Texas, and I went on this date, and the girl ended up being a very lightweight drinker,” he explained. “She kissed me when the night was over, and the next morning I called her up and said, ‘hey, you’re a wonderful kisser, I hope we get to do it again sometime,’ and she was like ‘what?’  She couldn’t remember, so this was definitely worthy of being a song.”  The tongue-in-cheek performance proved a popular addition to the show, being applauded and well-received by the Folksong Society.

Adding both a great cover of the classic Fleetwood Mac hit, “Landslide,” and a rousing finale featuring “Strongest Heart,” Amanda and Anders earned a well-deserved ovation as they took their final bow.  Not quite done yet, after being informed that they had time for one more number, the duo happily retreated to their stage positions, and closed with a stunning rendition of “Friendly Fire.”  Amanda Rheaume kicked off the PFS 2019 fall season in style, proving a great ambassador for our northern neighbors, and the first of many that shall grace this stage over the next few months.  A quick glance ahead and we see many familiar names on the bill: Abigail Lapell, Benjamin Dakota Rogers, Moonfruits, Noah Derksen, and Irish Mythen; no doubt there shall be many more to be added.  If you are in the Philly area and can’t always travel to Canada to see great artists like these, here is a wonderful opportunity to experience some great Canadian music here in the Keystone State.  We’ll be returning to this venue again soon, that’s a given!

Set List:

  1. Get To The Part
  2. Mind Over Matter
  3. Keep A Fire In The Rain
  4. Red Dress
  5. Picture Of You
  6. Return To The Water
  7. Landslide (Fleetwood Mac cover)
  8. Not This Time
  9. Tell Me Anything
  10. This One’s For You
  11. The Skin I’m In
  12. On Disappearing
  13. Dead Horse
  14. Wolf Of Time
  15. Two First Kisses (Anders Drerup solo)
  16. Strongest Heart

Encore:

  1. Friendly Fire

 

Martin Noakes

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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